Day One review

Dayone2 logo

If you use a Mac and keep any sort of journal this is an app to look at. If you are a Windows user this is one more reason to make the switch.

I have been a user of Day One version 1 for several months, and it is an excellent tool for journaling. They pay attention to detail in both the design and the features. It has a clean and beautiful interface, and it’s super-easy to use. The MAC and IOS apps play nicely together, and sync is easy to setup and just works!

Day One recently released a new version with the somewhat confusing name of Day One 2.0. I have been using this version for about 2 weeks now. Here’s my review.

What’s new?Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 11.51.19 AM

There are two big new features:

  • Firstly support for multiple journals. This is perfect for me because I can now store my personal and work entries in the same place, but in separate journals.
  • Secondly, in the previous version you could only have a single photo per entry. Now you can have multiple photos. At first I wasn’t really interest in this feature, but I find that I am using it more and more – especially for documenting my travels.

Should you upgrade?

Well that depends on your needs? To upgrade both the Mac and IOS versions will set you back $49.98 (at the moment you can grab the Mac app for $29.99 and the IOS app for $4.99). If you do a lot of journaling, want multiple photos per entry and support for multiple journals then yes it is an excellent application and worth the price.

But if you are happy with a single journal, then aside from a mildly slicker interface you are not going to gain too much additional value.

Of course if you are not yet a user and are looking for a journaling app, this is one to check out.

Wishlist

While the app is great, there are a few things that I think would make it amazing:

  • Basic customisation of the styling in the posts using my choice of fonts and colours
  • Ability to export entries for a date range, and for the PDF export to show the images full-width, and to be able to select the fonts and colours
  • Applescript support would be amazing

But it’s a great app. It is easy to use, and makes keeping an electronic journal really easy.

You can find out more and get App Store links from their website.

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary review copy from Day One

Free resources from Udemy

The folk at Udemy have put together good collection of youtube videos focusing on public speaking. The videos are short, and give good examples and advice on become a better speaker.

Udemy also has a several online public speaking courses for sale. But like many learning sites you may have to look around to find the one that best suits you (hint: click on the courses and check out the table of contents).

They gave me a enrollment of one of the courses, and I got video, downloadable PDF supplementary material and external links.

Personally I think that nothing can compare to getting up and giving a speech in a safe environment (such as at a Toastmasters meeting), but if you are looking for some fast-track information or want to supplement your training,  there is some good stuff to be found.

On a side note I have used Udemy for technical training as well, and they have lots of very good courses on a variety of topics. They are worth checking out.

DEVONThink or Evernote?

I have been a paid user of Evernote for a couple of years and have always found it to be a very good service. However I have become recently more and more frustrated in it, in particular changing the MAC interface to a complex and unintuitive interface, and the reliability of the sycing between the cloud and the IOS app. So I have been looking for an alternative, and I think I may have found it in DEVONThink pro.

Since both DEVONThink and Evernote are used to store and find pretty much anything stored in notebooks (e.g. notes, documents, images, PDF etc), they pretty much do the same thing. In some ways DEVONThink does it much better than Evernote, but there are a few limitations as well.

Here is a feature comparison (this is not an exhaustive list of all the features, just what I consider to be most important for me), and some general comments after. While I have tried to keep this feature comparison as objective as possible, it is based on my own experience. Versions compared are Evernote v5.0.6 (MAC) and DevonThink Pro v2.5.1.

Feature Evernote DEVONThink
Platform Cross platform Mac and iOS only
Groups Notebooks can be stored in a single group (Evernote calls them stacks), but they cannot be nested in multiple levels Notebooks can be stored in groups, and groups can be nested.Notes can also be replicated and stored in multiple folders. EG I have a single list of items I need for photoshoots which is stored in both my photography and my travel folder.Smart groups allow for documents in different folders to be visible in a single place. For example I can view all WIP documents in a single place.
Tagging Tags supported Tags and labels (WIP, completed etc) supported
Browser plugins Yes Yes
Email notes directly to a notebook Yes No
Mobile Sync Over the air Over the air (mac to mac), but only via wifi for IOS. Note that version 2 of IOS is due soon which will support over the air sync. Of course the wifi sync is super-fast (since only the local network is involved).It is easy to select which notes or notebooks to sync (just replicate them to a “mobile sync” folder).You can also sync to dropbox and webdav
File formats Evernote; propriety format with limited export ability. Notes are all regular file formats (pdf, jpg, rtf etc), so it is easy to get the notes out should you wish to migrate the notes somewhere else
Search Saved searches supported. Search is slow Saved searches supported via smart groups. Search is super-fast
3rd Party support Lots of 3rd party applications that connect to Evernote, as well as apps created by them (eg Hello and Food app) Applescript support allows for extension of capability into other applications.
Editing internal editor Limited Since the files are stored in the file system, you can use any external editor (e.g. Textedit for RTF, preview for images etc). However the internal editor generally good enough.
Sharing Yes and very easy Yes but a little more complex
Note templates No Yes (eg: new agenda)
Size limits Limits depending if you have a free or paid package, but very generous limits. Since the files are stored on the computer, no limits
Costs Free and paid versions (annual fees) Pay for s/w, but no subscription costs, but it will take about 3 years to break even in cost compared to Evernote
Mobile version offline access (iPhone) Supported, but I never could get it to reliably work (at last check it told me that I had about 100tb used when I actually had about 100mb used) Supported via wifi

And now for some subjective comments.

Evernote

While the Evernote IOS application looks really nice, it is overly complex and cumbersome to use. In other words it looks pretty but is not friendly. When sync works it is great, but it constantly seems to be wanting to update notebooks, and the updates seemed to take forever. Of course it has online sync, whereas the DEVONThink products do not (yet – see below).

The PC desktop version is great, and the MAC version was until a recent update in which it became very unintuitive. I had to do an online search to find out how to do a simple thing like delete a notebook.

DEVONThink

The DEVONThink IOS application is very simple, but it is easy to use, search is accessibly (and fast), and navigation is really fast and easy. Sync can only be performed via wifi and not though the cloud (although a new version is due this year which will support sync via the cloud).

It reminds me of using the beautiful OmniFocus interface, similar, easy to use but powerful. This is a good companion product for the GTD junkies and OmniFocus users. While both are simple and intuitive, they are powerful products and have loads of useful features. It is not the cheapest products, but after using it for a few weeks you will wonder how you ever got by without it.

It integrates into almost anything, and getting information into and out of it is a breeze. I feel less “locked in” than with Evernote.

Overall (and yes I am coming from a grumpy Evernote experience), I think that DEVONThink is the winner, it will be my product of choice.

You can download a 30 evaluation version of DEVONThink, or the free version of Evernote and decide for yourself.

Disclosure: free license for both iPhone and MAC were provided by DEVONThink for my evaluation.

Review: Cloudberry online backups

I have far too many friends that just don’t create backups, and far too many that backup to an external drive that lives next to their computers, which while marginally better is still basically useless.. Online backups are such a simple solution to this problem, but I have (until now) struggled to find a solution that really meets my needs.

In my quest to find the ultimate online backup solution, here are my requirements:

  • Compression of files before they are sent to the cloud. This saves in both upload time (bandwidth), and in storage cost.
  • Encryption of my data on my machine before they are sent to the server
  • “Trust no one”; only I hold the encryption key, and online data can only be decrypted by me
  • Versioning of files and keeping deleted files for a period of time
  •  Support of external (USB) drives
  • Robust

I have used two providers in the past (I won’t mention names), but one of them only supported internal drives, and the other deleted 50gigs of online backup because my external drive was unavailable.

So, I think that I may have finally found a product that does everything I need: Cloudberry Backup. Cloudberry have built a bunch of products that allow for connectivity to cloud storage services (their ‘S3 Explorer” is basically Total Commander for S3; a great product as well).

I have been using Cloudberry Backup for about a week now, and so far I am very impressed. Here are some of the features that impress me:

  • Optional compression
  • Block level backups (great for mailboxes)
  • Support for several cloud storage providers (S3, Rackspace, Azure and Google are just a few)
  • When using S3 (which is what I use), it gave me the option to use the Reduced Redundancy Storage, which is a little cheaper
  • Trust no one; however if I lose my backup key I will not be able to recover my files. The backup key is NEVER sent out
  • Many encryption options (AES256, DES, RC2, 3DES); file names are also encrypted
  • File Versioning (and deleting of old versions and retention of deleted files)
  • Scheduling
  • Real time backups
  • Server side encryption (s3 only)
  • Client side encryption

 

I tried to break it (by removing the external drives during backup), and it just picked up the error and waited for the drives be reconnected.

I then tested by deleting a few files and running a restore, it was a breeze. When I had a few questions, I got a rapid email response from them.

The software is super-simple to use; I will literally backuping up some folders in about 5 minutes. While it has some quite complex and technical features, anybody can use it. It is really easy to use. This is a great product which I think will be my backup solution.

I will post any updates.

Disclaimer: Cloudberry offered me a free license key, but it was only after I started my evaluation, and my evaluation is based on the 14 day trial that I am currently running. If it continues running like I expect, I will use that free key.

 

Syndicating your blog – Word Camp Cape Town

Some of you have asked for a copy of my recent presentation at WordCamp Cape Town. The organisers have loaded all of the sessions onto YouTube, so if you would like to watch my session (or any of the others, look below). If you are at all interested in WordPress and missed WordCamp , I highly recommend that you look out for WordCamp Cape Town 2012, it is going to be a fantastic conference. Here is the YouTube video.

And here are the slides

Use your customers to improve your product

I have been using Microsoft Office 2010 for a few months now. When I closed Word the other day, the following dialogue appeared on the screen. Basically Word had made a list of words that I commonly use that are not in the Word dictionary, and gave me the option of uploading them to their spell check database.

I am sure that they are using the community-gathered information to add new words to the dictionary to make for an ultimately better product.

This is a simple and elegant way to make a better product, and to have happier customers.

  • What are you doing to make your products better?
  • How are you involving your customers?
  • Is it easy for your customers to provide feedback?

Five iPhone Apps for Public Speakers (guest post)

A guest post by Louise Baker

Many people are afraid of speaking in public or have trouble doing so effectively. With today’s technology, the job of a public speaker is becoming easier. Here are 5 iPhone apps that you can use the next time you are giving a presentation.

1. Presenter Pro

“Presenter Pro” is available for $1.99 is designed to improve your public speaking abilities. It covers body language, the content of your presentation, the audiovisuals that you use, and many quick tips. By making use of ability of the iPhone to seamlessly blend text, pictures, and sounds, this application is ideal for a public speaker who is looking to improve his or her skills.

2. Public Speaking Hypnosis

If the thought of public speaking makes you start sweating, try the “Public Speaking Hypnosis” application ($0.99). This application claims to use hypnosis techniques to reduce anxiety before your big presentation. It uses beats and soothing music to allow you to attain a state of relaxation.

3. Speech Timer Premium

“Speech Timer Premium” ($4.99) offers large, color coded timers for your speech. A light on your phone will indicate green, yellow, red, or flashing to alert you when you reach pre-set times. See at a glance whether you are on track or use the vibrate feature and keep your phone in your pocket. If you give a variety of presentations, you can save the timing information for each of your presentations. This application also comes in a “lite” version for $0.99 if you don’t need all the features of the full application.

4. iSpeechCards

“iSpeechCards” ($1.99) is a full featured cue card application that allows you to plan out your presentation on a series of notecards which you can flip or tap to turn allowing you to refer to your notes as you speak. You can also set a duration for each card to display and then “turn” automatically. The notecards can also be easily rearranged or edited.

5. iUmmm

“iUmmm” ($0.99) is a unique application which allows you to record your presentation and take note of your verbal tics or bad habits. You can set whatever habits you want to track and use an easy click to record each time it occurs. If you have a tendency to allow “um” or “like” to interrupt your speech or a nervous habit of clicking your pen, this application can make you more aware of the habit and track your progress in ridding yourself of it.

Public speaking is your opportunity to present yourself with confidence and professionalism. With the help of some new applications, you can be more in control of how you present yourself so that your next public speaking engagement will make a positive impression on your audience.

Louise Baker is a freelance blogger who usually writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. Her most recent article ranked the best online schools.

Be afraid of our customers

Heard in a presentation by (the other) Michael Jackson

“Yes, you should wake up every morning terrified with your sheets drenched in sweat, but not because you’re afraid of our competitors. Be afraid of our customers, because those are the folks who have the money. Our competitors are never going to send us money.”

Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com
Remember who could be sending you money, and do everything to gain their trust, respect and business.

Concise and effective messages – GroupWise confuses the reader

confusion Just before I went on Christmas leave, I tried to set-up an out of office at one of my clients (where I have an email address). I am used to setting it up in Outlook, which is a very simple procedure. However this client is running a rather old version of GroupWise (v7).

The help file in Outlook explains how to create an out of office in exactly 49 words, while the GroupWise help file took over 500 words to completely confuse me (I never managed to get it working in the end).

My point is twofold. Firstly that GroupWise is probably the worst email system in the world. Secondly, their help file is far to confusing. It managed to confuse a very experienced computer user.  If I was confused,  I really feel sorry for the regular user. It should not take 500 words to explain such a simple task.

Ok, here is the lesson. Are you ever a GroupWise help file when you communicate? Do you give complex, confusing messages that make no sense? Or are you Outlook, providing short, effective and powerful messages?

For your reading pleasure, here are the instructions for both products (good bedtime reading).

Here is how you do it in Outlook:

Turn an Out of Office Assistant rule on or off

To turn out of office rules  on or off, on the Tools menu, click Out of Office Assistant.
In the Status box, select or clear the check box next to the rule you want to turn on or off.

Here is how you do it in groupwise version 7:

To create a vacation rule

  • Click Tools > Rules > New.
  • Type a name in the Rule Name box, such as Vacation Rule.
  • Click the When Event Is pop-up list, then click New Item.
  • Next to And Items Are, select Received. Make sure no other item source is selected.
  • Do not make any selections under Item Types.
  • Use Define Conditions to add specific information to your rule. The following are examples of using Define Conditions.
    • If you want to set up the dates during which the rule is in effect. Click Define Conditions > click Delivered in the first drop-down list > click On or After Date in the second drop-down list > in the date field, select the date you are leaving on vacation. Click the End pop-up list > click And. On the new line, click Delivered in the first drop-down list > click On or Before Date in the second drop-down list > in the date field, select the date you are returning from vacation > click OK.
    • If you want to make sure you reply only to items that are sent specifically  to you (and not to list servers or newsgroups). Click Define Conditions > if you have already specified information in this dialog box, click the End pop-up list > click And. On the new line, click To in the first drop-down list > click [ ] Contains in the second drop-down list > in the next field,  type your name as it displays in the To field of a mail message.
    • If you want to make sure that you do not reply to items from yourself (possible through delayed delivery). Click Define Conditions > if you have already specified information in this dialog box, click the End pop-up list > click And. On the new line, click From in the first pop-up list > click [x] Does Not Contain in the second drop-down list > in the next field, type your name as it displays in the From field of a mail message > click OK.
    • If you want to reply to internal items only. Click Define Conditions > if you have already specified information in this dialog box, click the End pop-up list > click And. On the new line, click From in the first drop-down list > click [x] Does Not Contain in the second drop-down list > in the next field, type @ > click OK.
  • Under Then Actions Are, click Add Action, then Reply.
  • The Reply dialog box is displayed, showing Reply to Sender selected (you cannot select Reply to All). If you want your reply to include the sender’s original message, select Include Message Received From Sender. Click OK.
  • Type a message, for example:
  • I will be out of the office from September 3-September 10. If you need assistance during this time, please contact Martha Robbins at extension 1234.
  • Click OK.
  • Click Save. Verify that the rule has a check mark next to it, indicating that it is enabled, then Click Close.
  • Rules that trigger a reply (such as this vacation rule) keep a record of who a reply has been sent to, and make sure that a reply is sent only once to that user.

For completeness sake, here is how Google’s Gmail does it (36 words).

1. go into Settings->General
2. then scroll down to Out of Office AutoReply
3. Fill Subject and Message

Every time you leave your office set Out of Office AutoReply on, when you’re back turn it off.

Image from Flickr

Create great docs from PowerPoint – review of George! for PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a great tool for creating presentations, but it has never been particularly good at creating documentation or handouts. However, it is a huge amount of work to maintain two completely separate sets of documents.

Enter George! for PowerPoint by Leaders Guide Pro. They kindly gave me a free license to play with the product.

This simple little addin fills the gap very nicely by providing a simple yet powerful documentation creating capability for PowerPoint.

Some of the features are:

  • Create table of contents for your handouts
  • A variety of elegant document templates, with titles, page numbers, headers and footers
  • Can create speaker notes or delegate handouts
  • Custom logos can be added to your documents
  • It is very easy to use

Here is what a typical PowerPoint handout looks like. Nothing wrong with it, but kind of boring.

boring version

But put it through George!…

handouts

Notice the header at the top, and copyright details at the bottom.

 

table of contents

You can finally add a table of contents to your handouts.

 

set-up docs

A variety of templates to choose from.

Tagging

George! uses a simple process called “tagging” to create the table of contents.

Would I buy it – yes! Would I recommend it? Yes if you find yourself creating handouts on a regular basis from your presentations. If you are just using it for Speaker Notes, then the default printing capability of PowerPoint will probably be ok.

George! uses Microsoft Word to create the actual documents (I suspect the Office scripting engine), and as a result the actual document generation process is a little slow (especially for large documents). So, best to create your documents and grab a coffee or something while you wait. However the results are worth it.

You can buy George! for about $40 from Leaders Guide Pro.

A final comment: I had a few problems getting my free license to work. Nancy from Leaders Guide Pro was absolutely superb with assisting me, providing support and follow-up. Full marks for their customer support.